12052016Headline:

Win of Trump – End of Politics by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

The election of Republican Presidential candidate Donald J Trump is a confirmation of the end of traditional politics. When Brexit happened it was considered an anomaly and failure of pollsters and pundits to read the sentiments correctly. But the election of Mr. Trump has confirmed that traditional politics, as we know it, has ended and we are entering a new era of politics that will be more radical. As a traditionalist I was wrong in predicting an outcome of Brexit and Mr. Trump election. Traditionally it was believed that elections are won by assuming a position of center-right or center-left because most voters were considered moderates and pragmatists. It was considered that to win a majority in an election it was important to appeal to these centrist majority. 

This traditional approach to politics ignored some basic flaws in the Western democratic model that had the potential to be exploited by the extreme right. Western democracy assumes that citizens do not have sufficient time to become an expert in policy choices hence they should transfer their mandate to an agent that is an expert on policy and send him/her to the parliament to represent them through an election. This assumption is now proven wrong as many have won elections without proven credentials of knowledge of policy and legislation. This is quite obvious in developing democracy in Pakistan. But even in the USA, if this assumption was to be correct then Hillary Clinton should have been elected as she had over 30 years experience in legislation and government while Trump had none.  In Brexit it is now clear that those campaigning for it were aware of the dangers of their approach but still pursued it for personal promotion.

Another flaw of the Western democratic model is that parties aggregate policy opinions and hence make it possible to arrive at a compromise between various choices. It is believed that in the absence of political parties it will be next to impossible to arrive at a compromise as each parliamentarian will have their own interests. This made political parties an integral part of the democratic process. If this was to be true then Hillary Clinton should have been the winner as she had an established record of promoting the ideological position of the Democratic party. Trump, on the other hand, was a Democrat first before he joined the Republican party. His election rhetoric defied long established values of the Republican party and earned a rebuke from his own party leaders. He was a Republican candidate in name only and won the election on his own despite opposition from party leaders. In Brexit also campaigners for and against it were from both Conservative and Labor parties.

Another flaw in the Western democratic model is that the decision of a majority no matter how small should be considered as a decision of all. This ignores the fact that turnout of voters is never 100% which means that it is hard to ascertain whether the winner who is getting the majority of polled votes actually has the support of the absolute majority. It assumes that those that did not vote would have voted in the same manner as those who did. Consider the latest elections in which 128 million out of 200 million registered voters turned out to vote which mean 72 million voters did not express their mandate. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost in local state votes. The turnout of Republicans was more than Democrats. Which means that Trump exploited the flaw of the democratic model by expecting that his extreme-right White supremacist voters that form 35% of all voters can take him over the edge to win the elections. His strategy of exploiting the flaw of the democratic model worked as confirmed by the numbers tabulated by New York Times. Among all White voters, Trump got 58% while 88% of Black, 65% Asian and 65% of Hispanic voters preferred Hillary Clinton. Voters in the age group of 18 to 44 years preferred Hillary by 58% while voters over 45 years old preferred Trump by 53%. 67% of White without college degree preferred Trump while 75% of nonwhite without college degree preferred Hillary. Protestants and other Christians 58% preferred Trump while 62% of non-Christians preferred Hillary Clinton. 83% of the voters preferred a candidate that they believed will bring change. In Brexit only a thin majority helped win the vote for it.

These flaws in the democratic model have provided a new lease of life for the extreme-right parties in Europe and USA. It was these flaws in the model that was exploited by Brexit promoters as well although even the leaders of the campaign were not sure they would win. This move to the extreme-right is also fueled by growing economic disparity, distrust of politicians, and polarization of communities on ethnic and sectarian lines. Social media has become an alternate medium for these extreme-right voters to get together and campaign for their candidate to counter the feeling that there is a media bias.

After the  win of Mr. Trump, many analysts are projecting that he will depart from his campaign rhetoric and try to move to the center. It is possible that candidate Trump can change into President Trump but forget that his voters will not move from extreme-right to the center. This means that Mr. Trump has to deliver on his promises and if he fails then this core constituency will lose their faith in the democratic institutions and may resort to even more extreme measures that are unimaginable. We have seen this play out in Muslim majority countries where the failure of politicians has created grounds for the emergence of political parties that have militant tendencies. I am not convinced that President Trump will not adopt policies that will be a danger to long-held American values of open doors for immigration, equal rights to all, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. I have formed this opinion because we have seen that after Brexit an effort to seek a soft landing is failing as those that supported it want promises to be fulfilled. Another example is PM Modi who also won as a promoter of Hindu fundamentalist, called Hindutva. He is finding it difficult to contain the demands of Hindu fundamentalist like banning of consumption of beef and subjugating Muslim divorce to Indian laws. Mr. Trump will face similar pressures not just in policy but even in the appointment of his cabinet.  Extreme right parties in Europe are already celebrating and expecting similar results.

The need is to review the current model of Western democracy to remove the flaws mentioned in this piece. There are many other models available that can be studied including Iranian model of controlled candidacy. The Chinese model of Confucian government where elections are held for the lowest level of leaders but performance of peers is considered to rise to the top. I had already predicted, about four years ago, that Western democratic model will be tested because of its inherent flaws and presented an Islamic democratic model in the book Islamic social contract.

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